A decision by the New Brunswick PC party to dismiss one candidate but keep another after both made transphobic comments has left some members of the LGTBQ2 community questioning whether the party is committed to protecting them.
The PCs announced on Wednesday that they’d be sticking with their candidate in Restigouche West despite past transphobic comments.
A spokesperson for the campaign says Louis Bérubé will remain with the party despite past comments regarding federal Bill C-16, which moved to include trans people under human rights and hate crime laws.
“It is our understanding that Louis Bérubé made the comments in question in 2016 during an interview on proposed legislation,” PC campaign communications director Nicolle Carlin wrote in an email. “It is also our understanding that he publicly apologized for those comments shortly after making them in 2016.
“Mr. Berube proceeded to run as a candidate for the Federal Green party in 2019, so he clearly passed their vetting process and he passed ours as well
“Mr. Bérubé has assured our team that he is remorseful for what he said and that his views have since evolved.”
The PC party says both Bérubé and Michaud apologized for their comments.
But Reid Lodge, a New Brunswick trans rights activist, says they might be OK with a candidate continuing to run if a sincere apology was issued, but is unsure why one candidate is being allowed to stay on and one is not.
“I don’t know if they feel like they’ve made a symbolic gesture to the community by getting one person out of the party and now they’re done and they’re not going to do anymore,” said Lodge, who is trans.
“But that’s what it feels like.”
Bérubé was quoted in a 2016 Acadie Nouvelle article on Bill C-16.
“Could this be? Legislation to protect the trangendered (explicit). Really? I can’t get over it. Where we are heading? They’re disturbed … we have to pretend that it’s normal,” he said.
Bérubé has not responded to a request for comment.
The PC party is not the only one to face criticism for the past comments of its candidates.
On Monday evening, the Liberals turfed Saint Croix candidate John Gardner over a series of offensive posts about the LGBTQ2 community.
In one post he suggested that LGBTQ2 communities should stop using the rainbow as a symbol because it is “offending the Christian and Jewish community… as it has a strong biblical significance.”
Lodge says the fact any of the candidates were able to pass the vetting process speaks volumes about the parties they were initially tapped to represent.
“It says a lot about the vetting process for all parties … that we’re just willing to tolerate these things in the people that are looking to represent us,” they said.
Lodge said it’s particularly troubling to see Bérubé remain on the ballot given that his comments were in relation to a law seeking to protect and extend rights to trans people in Canada.
“For someone who is looking to be elected to our government to outright say that we should not have protections for these people within our laws, that’s scary to me,” said Lodge.
“I depend on having representation in the government that’s willing to protect me.”
Don Wright, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick, says the inconsistency by the PCs is somewhat perplexing, but the issue at its root stems from the vetting process.
“It’s one of the purposes of political parties, to weed out candidates to present a brand. So you always vote Liberal, you always vote Conservative, you can trust that the candidate has gone through some kind of vetting process,” Wright said.
“One of the purposes of a political party is to present a unified team of people who speak to the values and the policy of that party. Even if you’re not familiar with that person, you’re familiar with that party and what it stands for.”
Wright says the issues cropping up late in the campaign are likely due to human resources issues within the parties.
He said a snap election left little time to vet, nominate and make sure candidates made it onto the ballot.
But the PCs’ decision to allow one candidate to stay after offensive remarks re-emerged could be damaging to the party’s brand, Wright said.
“It tells me the party is off-message and that it hasn’t got its message straight. You boot one candidate off the ticket but you keep the other candidate for equally problematic utterances. So I don’t know what the PCs are thinking, why they are applying one rule to one person and another rule to another person,” he said.
“It does appear contradictory, it does appear damaging to the PC brand to remove one candidate very quickly, very decisively and yet hum and haw and keep the other candidate.”